--Chapter Six: In the Right Mind
A hand taps her shoulder from behind. She turns quickly to see who’s there, but she sees nothing. The hand taps her other shoulder. Again, she turns around and sees nothing.
The camera angle changes to reveal that a mummy is tapping her shoulder, then scuffling behind her as she turns. Just as the mummy is about to tap again, Aeris thinks, Either this level has some sort of confusion curse cast over it, or I know some videogame programmers who had way too much time on their hands…
These concerns only half occupied her mind, however. This was the first time she had ever seen the city at night. The electric lights intrigued her; each one was like a television set, whose image never changed. Instead, it was the people and cars that were in motion, as though they were living under a fluorescent backlight. The effect mystified her somewhat, and she could not help but feel a bit homesick.
Leo approached her from the side, and she turned to listen as he reported his findings.
“I found a hobo over in that alley. He has a burger that he never finished. I figure there’s enough for both of us, if you want to check it out.”
Aeris looked toward the alley and said, “Alright. Just remember not to talk, okay? Humans might get a little freaked out about that sort of thing.”
“Really? I just talked to him, and he seemed to take to me pretty well.”
“What? I had to ask him if he was going to eat the rest of his burger; it’s just polite.”
Aeris shook her head and closed her eyes. “Whatever. Let’s just eat.”
The bum was currently sitting, leaning against the brick alley wall, checking off something on a list.
Hobo: Hm, let’s see here… (The list is labeled, “Signs of Doomsday A’comin’,” and half of the numbers below have a check mark next to them. He reads from the list aloud.) Ah, here it is: “Talking Cat asks for a favor.” Right between “Four Horsemen go on a killing spree” and “David Lynch sweeps the Oscars.” (He checks off the cat listing.) By gum, I swear the end is near…
(Leo and Aeris come around the corner and sit next to him.)
Hobo: Oh, hi, little kitty! (He quickly puts the list in his pocket.) So you brought a friend with ya, eh?
Leo: Hobo, meet Aeris. Aeris, Hobo. Now, uh, about the burger ya promised…
Hobo: What? Oh, yes, of course. Here ya go. (hands over the burger, puts it on the ground)
Aeris: Thank you so much, sir. We really appreciate it.
Hobo: Oh, the pleasure’s all mine! Just put in a good word for me to the Big Guy, okay? You tell him little old Jim’s a good man, right?
Leo: (between bites) “Big Guy?”
Aeris: I think he means God, Leo.
Hobo: Yes, that’s the one, no doubt about it. Ain’t no guy bigger.
Leo: Ah. Yeah, well, we’ll pass on the message when we get the chance.
Aeris felt a bit uneasy talking to a human; she felt the need to strike up a conversation, but did not know what subject to touch on.
“So… you live here every day?” she finally asked, when the cats had just about finished the meal.
“Oh, more or less, that I do. I spent many an hour here recently, because this is as good a spot as any of my sort could ask for. I mean, it’s good to finally have a whole alley all to myself. Nothin’ like Montreal, mind.”
“Were you here earlier today?” asked Leo.
“Yup, I spent the last several months here.”
“Did you hear about what happened at the stadium?”
The hobo’s eyes widened, and he took the list and pencil from his pocket once more. He solemnly asked, “Was there a six-winged flying moose harassing the second-base umpire?”
Said Leo, “Uh, no, I don’t think so… There was a big red monster, and it ate a fan in the bleachers.”
The bum looked at the list briefly, disappointed. Without checking anything off, he started to put it away again and said, “No, I don’t think I heard about that.”
Leo shrugged and said, “Oh well. It’s not all that important. But if you see a big red monster with yellow eyes, run away, okay? You don’t want to mess with that thing.”
“Yes, well, and if you see a six-winged moose, you come and tell me about that, too, eh?”
Aeris stood up and got ready to leave. “Deal.”
“If ya don’t mind my askin’, where are you kitties headed tonight? Got a place to sleep? Cuz if ya need a place to stay, I got some extra newspapers lyin’ around here. They’ll keep ya nice and warm. Just don’t believe anything ya read in ’em—bunch a baloney the Neptunian overlord wants ya to think.”
Leo was about to speak, but Aeris gently put a paw over his mouth and said, “Thanks for the offer, but we really need to get going.”
“Well, so be it. Just remember, tell the Big Guy that old Jim was good to ya.”
“We’ll do that.”
When they had left the alley, Leo whispered, “Why’d you have to do that? We just missed out on a perfect opportunity for a place to sleep.”
“Nah, that guy’s too crazy. Now he thinks we’re a godsend; by midnight he’ll be thinking we’re sacrificial lambs.”
“Oh, come on, Aeris. He’s a nice guy. A little out there, but not in a bad way.”
(Meanwhile, back in the alley…)
Hobo: Dagnabbit! Why did those cats have to leave? It been four years since I last had cat stew, and I might not get that good a chance at it for the rest of my life!
Krug stood at an intersection, fully cloaked. This was the place the reporters had been, he was sure of it. They must have gone away. He was just about to get angry, when he heard two voices behind him.
“Well, so what are we going to do, keep searching for Scotty and this Krug thing all night?”
“Leo, I thought I told you to keep your voice down. Any human could hear us right now.”
“Fine, fine.” The first voice had become softer, but Krug sensed it approaching him.
The monster turned around. There were no humans on the sidewalk, though there were plenty of cars in the street. The only things approaching him were two little furry creatures. Krug had not seen anything like these before. He could tell that they were whispering to each other, though.
Krug waited for them to come under the lamplight. Then he said, carefully, “You looking for Krug?”
The cats simultaneously looked up. Both of them thought the figure in front of them was the right size for a human, but the yellow eyes glaring at them seemed to portray something else. It did not take long before they saw right through Krug’s street disguise. They did their best to hide their sheer astonishment, but it showed through plainly enough anyway.
Leo got up the courage to speak first. “Actually, we’re looking for a human. His name is—”
“Pants Man,” said Aeris, interrupting. “His name is Pants Man.”
Krug growled and said, “Pants Man… Krug trying to get revenge on Pants Man… Pants Man almost ruin Krug’s plan.”
Aeris thought it wise to play along. If Scott were looking for Krug, then Krug was their key to finding Scott. She would have to try and make friends with Krug in the meantime.
“He ruined our plan, too,” said she. “We want to find him for revenge, just like Krug. That’s why we’re trying to find him. Hopefully we can team up and give Pants Man what he deserves.”
It took a moment for Leo to catch on, but when her idea occurred to him, too, he looked at Aeris wide-eyed. His expression said plainly, I hope you know what you’re doing…
Krug took the bait. Here were two creatures, furry like himself, and trying to find the same man he was after.
“Listen,” said he, lowering his voice. “I Krug. If you want, you stay with Krug, we find Fleshy One together.”
“Sounds great,” said Aeris.
Leo tried to smile. Krug started walking, saying, “Follow Krug.”
So they followed him through the streets of downtown Toronto, still too dazed to wonder at the coincidence of them finding the monster before Scotty did. All they knew was that either they were extremely lucky, or extremely unfortunate. Which, only time would tell.